Published 03/28/14

Jay Weinberg with students

Jay Weinberg '85, second from left, mentors students and graduates who are building entrepreneurial businesses.

Catching the entrepreneurship bug

In the 20-plus years since Professor Jack Keigwin, an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year, taught Leadership and Entrepreneurship, Bryant’s accomplished faculty continues to inspire and nurture legions of young entrepreneurs.

Experienced professors, many successful entrepreneurs in their own right, create an entrepreneurial environment on campus through the way they instruct, inspire, and mentor inquisitive students. Students engage with other student entrepreneurs and working professionals, including accomplished alumni, through internships, competitions, and workshops. Off campus, ambitious undergraduates raise the bar by participating in Providence’s diverse entrepreneurial offerings, Betaspring and DESIGNxRI, to name just two.

By supporting and leveraging its forward-thinking, high-caliber faculty, and offering diverse business classes and robust extracurricular collaborations, Bryant prepares students to become tomorrow’s business leaders and successful entrepreneurs.

Even Bloomberg Businessweek has noticed: in its May 2013 edition, Bryant ranked among the top entrepreneurship programs in the nation.

Entrepreneurship unites Bryant students and alumni

Michael Roberto, DBA, Trustee Professor of Management and director of Bryant’s Center for Program Innovation, stresses the proven value of connected entrepreneurs. “Look at Silicon Valley,” he explains. “Many institutions, universities, and chambers of commerce foster entrepreneurs who can collaborate with and feed off one another.” Boston and Providence emulate that model, he says.

Simulations, experiential exercises, team projects, and organizational consulting — real-world entrepreneurial experiences accessible to every student

Bryant’s 2012-2014 Collegiate Entrepreneurs ’Organization President Harris Roberts ’14, concurs, citing the advantages offered in Rhode Island’s capital city. “Providence is a great entrepreneurial breeding ground, with mentors, internships, and events, including StartupWeekend, a grueling 54-hour ‘no talk, all action’ business development weekend.”

David Donahue ’84 has shared his real-world expertise with Bryant students as keynote speaker at the Elevator Pitch Competition and as a guest speaker in entrepreneurship classes and Bryant Ventures, an incubator program.

Donahue co-founded two highly successful employee service companies, Bentana Technologies and Benefits XML. “The faculty’s job is to teach the mechanics of entrepreneurship, and my job is to interject a dose of reality,” he says. “Students should think of me as a potential investor and educate me about the market they want to address, not just the nuts and bolts of their new product or service. Entrepreneurs need to understand the market, how they will build a team to address the opportunity, and get out there and learn.”

Now a Connecticut-based consultant, Donahue was delighted when several of his former employees formed a new company after he sold Bentana Technologies. “I was always trying to teach entrepreneurship. I consider it a badge of honor when employees form their own company.”

Roberto agrees, “Students should be like sponges. They need to learn not to be reticent about seeking help. Alumni are willing to share what they know. Students just have to ask.”

Bryant prepares its students for success

Brian Cotter ’95 says coursework, colleagues, and faculty all contributed to his “fantastic foundation” for graduate studies at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his MBA, and for his early career. Cotter went on to cofound the California-based PSG Global Solutions, which provides offshore recruiting services. “I was amazed that so much of what I learned at Bryant overlapped with my first year at Wharton. I was way ahead of many people,” recalls Cotter, who tested out of several first-year graduate school classes after his success at Bryant.

“Bryant has always been known for learning by doing, which supplements learning through case studies,” explains Roberto. “Simulations, experiential exercises, team projects, and organizational consulting are real-world entrepreneurial experiences accessible to students from their first year.”

Successful entrepreneurs deftly address unanticipated change and avoid excessive planning. Donahue reminds students that their first ideas will not be their last. “Get out and learn, get smacked in the face, adjust, and move on.”

Excerpted from the Winter 2014 Bryant Magazine